What now for Higher level apprenticeships?


Last year we wrote that “the world of higher education is changing, and apprenticeships are at the forefront of this evolution”. This has certainly proved to be the case as employers in Lincolnshire have increasingly taken advantage of the apprenticeship levy to provide degrees and masters programmes for their staff.

For years Higher Education fell mainly into one of two camps. The traditional 18-21 year olds going to university to study and spread their wings, and those unable to study on campus and learning remotely. Apprenticeships have been throwing an exciting new option into the mix.

Increasingly, employers have been looking to spend their training and development budgets on their staff in order to upskill them in leadership and management, which will invigorate their business and ultimately increase staff retention. This mixture of work and education matches perfectly to a blended learning approach in an apprenticeship. More than ever it is safe to say that apprenticeships can be for anyone – not just school leavers.

The catalyst for this paradigm shift was the apprenticeship levy. Since April 2017, all employers with an annual wage bill over £3m have been mandated to pay 0.5% of their wage bill as a levy (effectively a tax) to a government pot of money. This pot of money is then accessible to the employer to draw-back in order to fund apprenticeships.

Since 2017, we have seen growing numbers of employers work with the Lincoln International Business School to put their staff onto the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) programme. Our last intake in September 2018 saw 24 learners join from a number of employers across the region. This is a work based learning opportunity, where those with leadership aspirations are given practical skills and theories to take into their working environment.

The course lasts for 3 years and consists of a series of 10-week modules. As opposed to traditional degrees, the face to face time impact is limited, with only one day per module on campus. The rest of the learning is delivered via digital media for example Webinars and our virtual learning environment ‘Blackboard’. This makes the programme flexible and extremely easy to access.

This year we were also delighted to launch our brand new Masters in Business Administration – MBA – programme, which is now accessible under the apprenticeship banner (Senior Leaders Master’s Degree Apprenticeship). Without making any changes to their employment status, executives can now study an MBA whilst continuing their work. 16 learners signed up in January and so far the feedback has been fantastic; a real mixture of challenge and excitement. Whilst this type of learning is not for everyone, we are finding that increasing number of Senior Leaders are finding that they can finally match their strong work experiences, with a strong qualification.

Something for employers to bear in mind is that if levy money is not used within 24 months it is lost – which will start to happen from April 2019. There is not just a ‘use it or lose it’ incentive as all levy money is up-lifted by 10% when it spent on a degree apprenticeship. And if an employer exceeds their levy contributions any additional expenditure is 90% funded by the government under a scheme called co-investment.

There aren’t many deals like it – put in £100 and you get training worth £1,000. When you’re talking degrees that’s big bang for your buck! For smaller companies who do not pay the levy, they too can currently take advantage of co-investment with 90% contribution for their degree apprenticeships.

Anyone interested in the opportunities with our MBA or CMDA programmes available at Lincoln International Business School can contact mhickerton@lincoln.ac.uk or more information.